Best Thin and Light Laptops
Top 10 The Best Thin and Light Laptops. This a very comprehensive comparison of ultrabooks. And like last year’s post, in order for a device to be included into this post, it had to be 3 pounds or less, and it also has to have a real keyboard, like an actual, fold-out, dedicated keyboard. No attachment covers or any kind of, like, gimmicky stuff. Has to be a keyboard that’s built-in, because a lot of people that purchase ultrabooks need to be able to use it on their lap or just in areas that just don’t have tables. So: three pounds or less, dedicated keyboard.
Okay, so no particular order, we have the Dell XPS 13, the 9360. I think this is one of the best-selling ultrabooks on the market right now, this is their second generation of this device. We also have the LG Gram.
This is one of the lightest 13″ ultrabooks available. The whole LG Gram lineup was nicely updated for 2017, with bigger batteries, better components, and just better build quality all-around. We have the Lenovo Carbon X1. This is one of the best-built devices that Lenovo makes. It has that classic Lenovo keyboard that everyone loves, and that nipple thing that some people love. We have HP Spectre x360. This is the only 2-in-1 device on this list. I think it’s the best 2-in-1 flip device on the market, it’s an amazing laptop, and for people who want to use it as a tablet as well, you can do that. We also have the Razer Blade Stealth.
So this was the device that surprised everyone last year, with the individually-lit keys, great performance, external GPU support, and strangely good value. The Kaby Lake update just made it even better. We also have a Samsung Notebook 9. So this is a device that isn’t super popular in North America, but it’s incredibly lightweight, it does this by packing a smaller battery, but the overall hardware is good. This one is the Asus ZenBook 3. This is a more premium device, it’s one of the more expensive laptops in this comparison, but it delivers solid performance in an extremely compact package. And then we have another Asus, the UX330.
This is the cheapest of the devices here, so Asus makes a ton of ultrabooks options, this one just has really good specs for the money. Okay, we have the 12″ MacBook. It has the weakest processor here, and it has that single port that so many people love to hate. You’re obviouly paying a huge premium to have something this thin and light from Apple, but it is good hardware, and it’s still a good fit for some users. Lastly, we have the 13″ MacBook Pro. It’s nice, but again, it’s expensive. The base model is quite a bit more than most devices here, but despite that heavy Apple premium, the hardware is nice.
Now there are some devices that didn’t make the cut, and here’s why. This is the 13″ MacBook Air. It’s not that it’s a bad device, it’s under three pounds and it’s got a dedicated keyboard. But at this point in time, it’s just getting super old. The CPU in here is several generations old, it’s not as efficient, and I just think there are better ways to spend your money if you’re looking for a thin-and-light ultrabook. Secondly is the Surface Pro 4. Great device, but like I mentioned, to make this video, you need to have a built-in keyboard. And there’s also no Surface Book, because it’s just too heavy.
A really cool device, but I just wouldn’t consider it an ultrabook. I also didn’t include the XPS 13 2-in-1. So this is also a pretty good device, but I feel like the regular XPS 13 just does everything this does, but better, for the same price. Except for the flip, I mean, if you’re really into that flip thing, I would consider a different device instead of this. Okay, let’s talk about build. With ultrabooks, weight can be a very important factor when choosing one. And I think a lot of people just choose these things for portability. But build quality and device weight tend to be, like, conflicting things.
The better you build it, the heavier it often is, and just vice versa. So it’s kinda hard to find the balance between the two, especially when you’re trying to find something that’s as light as possible. Amongst these, I’d say that the MacBooks are built the best, I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but they’re just really well-built. For the Windows laptops, the XPS 13 is probably the best-built. It’s still an ultralight device, but it’s not the lightest of the bunch. The Lenovo X1 and the Razer Blade Stealth are also really well-built. And so is the HP Spectre.
The lightest with really good build quality is the ZenBook 3, it does have a 12.5″ screen, though. But my favorite, in terms of just overall build quality to weight ratio is actually the LG Gram. This thing is super lightweight, but the chassis is surprisingly strong for its size and weight. The screen has some flex, but the keyboard area is super solid. In terms of displays, a lot of these have really nice screens. The two MacBooks have great screens, but as usual, they’re expensive. In terms of the Windows machines, my favorite is the XPS 13, but it’s close. So many of these panels just look awesome.
The Stealth has a QHD screen, but honestly, I feel like in this particular category, just display quality, you can’t go wrong with them. Pick any one of these, and you’ll be happy with the screen. A few of them have the option to upgrade to higher-quality and higher-resolution displays, it’s just a little bit more expensive. If you’re looking for a good webcam, so if you do, like, a lot of Skype calls, or video conferencing, the one on the Razer Blade Stealth is pretty good. Keyboards and trackpads are usually a personal preference thing, and my personal favorite is the Lenovo X1. I think it’s a keyboard that most people will get used to quickly.
The XPS 13 and the HP are also nice to type on, but none of these are bad, I think manufacturers recognize the importance of having a good keyboard on these ultrabooks. Except for maybe the 12″ MacBook, I don’t love that one. As for trackpads, the MacBook force trackpads are awesome. The XPS 13, the LG Gram, and the Lenovo also have nice trackpads. These ultrabooks have a bunch of processors to choose from, but for regular use, like watching videos, browsing the web, or typing up documents, these feel really similar to each other.
I wouldn’t worry too much about CPU choice. You can play some lighter games on these ultrabooks, with the HD 620, they’re obviously not amazing for 3D stuff, but with the i7, framerates can be playable. If we look at drive speeds, there’s a spread again, and depending on what you do, the faster drives can make it feel a little bit faster, but even the slower SATA drives will feel sufficiently fast for most ultrabook stuff, but if you frequently transfer large files, or lots of files, or if you’re a heavier photo editor, I would pick up a faster drive. For the most part, they’re all properly cooled, when it comes to regular use, but here’s a chart for reference.
The new Kaby Lake chips are very efficient, and the fans usually don’t spin when you’re doing regular tasks or even watching videos. The most quiet is the fanless 12″ MacBook, that thing is silent. But aside from that, most of these are really quiet. If audio is important to you, the two MacBooks have phenomenal speakers, I still have no idea how they’re pushing this kind of volume and/or clarity, they’re just really solid speakers. For Windows devices, the Spectre x360 is probably my pick, the Razer Blade Stealth is a distant second. And everything else is an even more distant third. Running my batter loop at 250 nits, the MacBooks always have good battery life, but in terms of Windows machines, the winner here is actually the LG Gram.
The XPS 13 and the Razer Blade Stealth are close, and they have similar battery sizes, but this thing just has better software optimization with this battery or something, ’cause I’m consistently getting better battery life with this. In terms of I/O, there’s a huge variation in port selection amongst these devices, some of them are comically bad, but the winner to me is the Lenovo X1. Four USB ports, two of them being Thunderbolt 3.
And as always, if it has a Thunderbolt 3 connection, you can connect it to an external GPU for gaming. The Razer Core works nicely for the Stealth and some Windows laptops, but the Bizon Box 3 will work for all Thunderbold 3 equipped laptops, including MacBooks. Alright, in terms of pricing and value, here’s a list of their current pricing. The one that sticks out is the Asus UX330. It’s crazy that you’re getting an aluminum ultrabook for that kind of money. Runner-up is the Razer Blade Stealth. It’s a bit more expensive, but you’re getting better performance. Both of these give fantastic value for the money, and the XPS also has some cheaper configurations as well.
Okay, before I wrap it up, there’s two wildcard laptops that I haven’t talked about yet. First is something made by a company called Xiaomi, it’s their Xiaomi Air 12. It’s a Chinese company, and they basically mimic- actually no, I should rephrase, they basically completely rip-off Apple’s MacBooks. And to be completely honest, they’re actually really good value for the hardware. The thing is, they’re very difficult to purchase outside of Asia.
And if you get one, and when you get it, if anything goes wrong, you’re totally screwed. You can’t get it repaired, you’re going to have to send it back to China, and I mean, that just sounds like a nightmare for most people. If anything goes wrong. So if you have big balls and you want good value, there’s an option. The second wildcard is the Surface laptop. Now, I don’t my review unit yet, but my early impressions of it, that despite that relatively high pricetag, it is possibly the best-built Windows device in this market segment.
And it has really good battery life. So if you’re looking for something with a really premium build, take a look at that one. Now if I had to choose a winner amongst these laptops, it would probably be the two MacBooks. :\ I’m kidding. All of the laptops on this list have strengths and weaknesses, but as of today, there’s still no universally perfect ultrabook, you’re going to have to pick one based on the features that are most important to you. All of these are really good, but my top picks this year, it’s a three-way tie.
If you want something with good build quality and a nice screen, the XPS 13 is still going strong. If you want something that looks a little better, in my opinion, and you want a little better value, the Razer Blade Stealth is the winner there. It looks extra awesome with some of the new DBrand skins. But the new guy this year with three-way tie in first place is the LG Gram, this thing is a really light device with great battery life, it’s what a lot of people are looking for in an ultrabook.